Written by Krishna Shreeram
Dedication. Whatever skill you’re aspiring to polish, you can’t make it through without this 10-letter word. Add to that a certain amount of patience, and to an extent, obsession, and you’ve got yourself a winning formula. You may have seen graceful figure skaters twirling around effortlessly on television, but it is far from effortless. The pain of falling, injuring yourself, and being criticized over and over again for the tiniest of mistakes can be exhausting and requires an incredible amount of motivation and drive. Professional figure skaters eat, breathe, and live figure skating. They spend hours training while juggling their personal and social lives. It is truly an obsession, but those in the sport wouldn't want to live any other way.
Imagine getting a chance to immerse yourselves in the lives of these figure skaters. This is exactly what the anime Yuri on Ice offers to its viewers. Our lead protagonist, Yuri Katsuki, hits an all-time low in his professional figure skating career. Having lost back-to-back Grand Prix Finals, he decides to give up. While he’s sulking back home in the town of Hasetsu, his figure skating idol and five-time world champion, Victor Nikiforov, shows up unexpectedly. Victor offers to become Yuri’s coach and help him win the Grand Prix Final. From this point, the anime takes us on an emotional roller coaster as these two aim for gold.
Initially, the characters come across as quite one-dimensional. However, it takes a turn when each character’s inner thoughts are masterfully revealed. Especially when they are on the ice, the show makes us understand their lives, their surroundings, and how these factors affect them and their performance. From Yuri, the underdog trying to redeem himself, to Yurio, the aggressively passionate one who is ready to do anything to win, to JJ, the Canadian figure skater who is charming but overconfident at times, each character has been written beautifully. Despite their short screen time, the supporting characters as well, have managed to make an impression that synergizes with the show.
The makers have done an exceptional job at capturing not just the beauty of figure skating, but also its technical aspects. The skaters effortlessly glide across the ice, carrying out various technical jumps and flips like axels, salchows, toe loops, and the most difficult, quadruple flips. The accuracy is unreal. They use their entire body, from facial expressions to the motion of their figures. They imbue emotion, passion, and grace through their routines. The anime perfectly captures the delicacy of figure skating thanks to the team’s diligent research and work with actual choreographers, who have breathed life into all the performances.
The animation in this show is very impactful, especially in critical scenes. From anger to humor to love, every emotion is portrayed exquisitely. The show successfully evokes the emotions that the creator intended through several incredible scenes. For example, during the Cup of China, Yuri changes his final jump in the free skate at the last moment to Victor’s signature move — the quadruple flip. This astonishes Victor, and in response, he leaps onto Yuri, bringing him to the floor. The dramatic culmination of the scene left me with goosebumps. The figure skating animations are created using the movements of real figure skaters, which makes it as good as watching real athletes perform.
Yuri and Victor share an incredibly intricate yet beautifully simple relationship. Watching Yuri grow from a guy who just gave up on everything to a self-assured and passionate individual, ready to take on anything in his way, even love, is truly exhilarating. As for Victor, he learns to appreciate the simpler things in life and understand what it takes to be a mentor. There are some hilarious as well as heartwarming interactions between these two that make me truly admire what they have.
As much as I was rooting for the duo, I am glad the creators didn’t twist the story to make it just about the two of them and embraced the heart of the story, which is figure skating. The ups and downs of being a professional figure skater are accurately depicted. The intensity and difficulty of the sport are so well portrayed that I could feel it, even as a viewer. It demands not only physical but also a lot of mental strength. The anime did feel a bit slow-paced at times, but this was overshadowed by other elements that make this show a refreshing addition to the sports genre. If all that isn't enough, it also has a cute dog and hey, it’s just twelve 20-minute-long episodes. What are you waiting for? Give it a shot.